1. Less lobbing.
I think we have all played games where we have a serial lobber on the court. Can it work? Sure. Will it get you to the next level you are after? No. We have to lob sometimes and there are opportunities for good lobs. I am specifically talking about the intentional baseline third shot lobs. What are we doing? You won’t be getting over their head often with these; if it does, it will most likely go out.
2. Drill, Drill, Drill, and Drill.
I started playing just to have fun. Do you know what wasn’t fun? Not being able to hit consistent shots and points ending early due to unforced errors. Drilling can be a lot of fun. You are hitting more balls and getting a better workout per hour than playing games. Oh yeah, now you want to drill. If you wanted added competitiveness keep score with each drill. This always gets my fire going. I enjoy Simone Jardim’s drills below.
3. Pick a Target.
How often are you thinking about where you hit the ball? Not just who you are hitting the ball to, but where you are hitting it. Are you thinking about hitting a drive to their backhand? Are you thinking about hitting the third shot in the middle? You won’t automatically start placing the ball exactly where you want, but hitting with intention goes a long way towards getting the ball where you want it to go and helps you strategize.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Play Alone.
The first summer I started playing pickleball I could not get enough of it. I was biking and driving to the courts any opportunity I had. The only problem was sometimes I was the only one there. We all know you can practice serving on your own. When you practice your serves set up markers. I used water bottles. See how many balls it takes for you to hit a water bottle deep in the court. Getting your serve deep will help you set up a much easier third shot drop.
Do you smash too many overheads into the net? Do you hit one too many overheads into the fence? Yeah, I was there once too. You can either toss the ball into the air or hit it up with your paddle. This is a perfect opportunity to practice putting the ball away. Vary the heights you toss the ball and try moving around a bit.
Practice returning lobs. For this action, I start at the left side of the NVZ line and toss the ball towards the right side of the baseline (make sure to practice both ways.). You can practice hitting drops and drives as you run back to return the lob. I don’t see many people practicing sprinting back to return lobs, but it is a key element to the game as more people mix in lobs during a dinking rally (I know I just said stop lobbing, but that was for third shots from the baseline mainly!)
Do you have a wall at the courts or in your basement? Oh yeah, I am talking about wall practice. Get your favorite tape out and tape a line 36” high across your wall (it is 34” in the middle if you want to get super accurate) and 20’ long if you have that much space. Tape an NVZ line 7’ away from the wall. You just created a makeshift pickleball NVZ. You can practice dinking and volleys with this new creation. I have gotten do much faster with my hands from volleying against the wall. It helps you with not only speed but control as you are getting a lot more feedback from all of the repetitions you can do.
5. Watch the Ball.
Have you ever whiffed a ball? Shanked it? Done something else you couldn’t explain? Usually, when something that bad happens it means you were not looking at the ball. Keeping your focus on the ball as you make contact is essential. You will get a lot better if you can see what you are hitting, trust me.
6. Use the Right Grip.
How do you hold your paddle? The best grip to start out with is the continental grip (also called the handshake grip. Hold the paddle out with your non-dominate hand and shake hands with the paddle. Now you are holding a continental grip. You can check your form below.
7. Get Low.
You want to get below the ball and bend your knees. If you are standing straight up your reaction time will be slow getting to a dink and you will be more of a target for speedups. Start practicing getting low and you will see how much easier it is to dink.
Do you want to learn more?
Check out the Advanced Double’s Strategy on theDink
Looking for more tips and tricks for fast improvement?
Go check out this list https://www.thirdshotsports.com/articles/2018/3/26/7-things-you-can-do-to-play-better-pickleball-fast